Pringle Plans to Get Defensive in Minnesota
Minnesota's front office made three deals last Friday — believed to be the busiest day, trade -wise , for one franchise in WNBA history — and in the process unloaded a quarter of its roster while adding a hometown hero, a versatile veteran, a young prospect with loads of potential and two draft picks. When it was all said and done, the Lynx executed three moves in two hours involving six players and four draft picks. Got all that?
Six days removed from the busiest day in franchise history, you've probably had time to let the madness sink in by now. You've heard about the hometown hero, the versatile veteran and the two draft picks, but what about that young prospect with loads of potential? Her name: LaToya Pringle.
Pringle comes to the Lynx after spending her rookie year in the land of the desert playing behind veterans Tangela Smith and Olympia Scott. In 29 games, the 6-3 forward averaged 4.4 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 13.0 mpg. Pringle received some extra run when an injury to Smith ended her season, and in turn, resulted in Pringle starting the last seven games for the Mercury. In those seven contests, Pringle averaged 4.7 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.43 blocks in 15.6 mpg.
Pringle's true value in 2008 came on the defensive end, and that likely will be her same calling card in 2009. The athletic post blocked 1.5 shots per game in '08, including bursting on to the WNBA scene with 13 blocks in her first three WNBA games.
Pringle's athleticism and ability to block shots are a couple reasons why the Lynx brass pulled the trigger on the three-player deal. "Pringle gives us a young and athletic post player who has the ability to be a game-changer on the defensive end with her ability to block shots," said Lynx Executive Vice President Roger Griffith. "Our coaching staff loved her shot-blocking ability and her athleticism."
One of those coaches, Head Coach Don Zierden, also spokes highly of his new post. "LaToya Pringle provides us with superior athleticism in the post and has the ability to block shots and contribute offensively."
Pringle's defensive prowess goes all the way back to her days at North Carolina, where in 138 career games as a Tar Heel, she totaled 336 blocks, which averaged out to 2.4 blocks per game. Late in her senior year, Pringle passed Dawn Royster to become the all-time blocked shots leader in school history.
At the conclusion of her rookie season, Pringle headed over to Israel to work on her game. If the numbers are any indication, the Lynx just may have found their perfect compliment to center Nicky Anosike. Through 16 games with Maccabi Ramat Hen of the Israeli D1 league, Pringle is averaging 17.7 points and a league-leading 13.9 rebounds. Included in her success overseas are 12 double-doubles, 13 double-digit rebounding games and three games with 20+ rebounds. Pringle also leads the league by averaging 2.9 blocks per game, and is shooting 64.7% (101-of-156) from the floor.
While Pringle might be the least-heralded of the three players acquired on Friday, that's likely to change in the very near future.
Upon hearing the news of the trade, Pringle took some time out to reflect on her move to the north. Read below as she talks about her rookie season in Phoenix, her defensive abilities and her expectations for herself and the Lynx in 2009.
Lynxbasketball.com: First off, where were you when you first heard about the trade and what were your initial thoughts on coming to Minnesota?
LaToya Pringle: I was asleep in Israel and one of my teammates here called and told me that I had been traded to Minnesota. I rolled over and went to WNBA.com and then called my parents. At first I was in shock because getting traded meant I would have learn a new system and team.
LB.COM: Talk a little bit about your rookie season with the Mercury in 2008. You didn't see a ton of consistent playing time, but when you did get some run you produced, especially on the defensive end. Can you sum up your rookie year and how it felt to finally make it to the WNBA?
LP: I loved the city of Phoenix and my teammates. I played around a lot of veterans, so in my rookie year I learned a lot about the game, both on and off the court. The WNBA is very different from college basketball so playing on a team filled with talent and leadership helped me a lot.
LB.COM: You're known for your game-changing ability to block shots. What makes you so successful on the defensive end? Is that ability going to be your calling card moving forward in the WNBA?
LP: I've always had a talent for blocking shots. It's something that comes so natural for me. I love to play defense, and defense is something that I learned a lot about while playing at North Carolina. I've always been known for blocking shots and I hope that can continue throughout my career in the WNBA.
LB.COM: What about your ability to grab rebounds... you're averaging an astounding 14.0 rpg playing for Maccabi Ramat Hen of the Israeli D1 League. What do you attribute that success to? Does your superior athleticism play a role in your ability to dominate the glass?
LP: I've never been the biggest post player size-wise, so I often use my athleticism and speed to battle for rebounds. I think being mobile has helped me here is the Israeli league.
LB.COM: Have the coaches discussed what kind of role they envision for you as we look ahead to 2009? What kind of role do you want and feel most comfortable playing? Do you think you're prime for a jump in numbers in 2009, your second year?
LP: We haven't discussed what my role will be, but whatever coach wants to me do, I'll do it. No matter if it's defense or offense, I'm going to give my all to help the team this season. I have played every role possible, so I'm comfortable filling any role in order for the team to be successful.
LB.COM: Explain what it was like to play with Olympians Diana Taurasi and Cappie Pondexter... did you learn a lot from them? How about Tangela Smith?
LP: Diana and Cappie were great players and even better people. I learned from them about what it takes to be successful — they work so hard on and off the court. Tangela was a big help to me my rookie season as well. I learned by watching her play and even when she went out with her knee injury, she still coached me from the sideline. I was fortunate to play alongside some great veteran post players like Tangela, Le'Coe Willingham, Barbara Farris, and Olympia Scott.
LB.COM: What are your strengths on the offensive end? What you think you need to improve on the most in terms of scoring the basketball more?
LP: I'm a back-to-the-basket post player and love to offensive rebound. I need to work on extending my shooting range so I can be as effective outside of the paint.
LB.COM: What do you expect for the Lynx in 2009? With the additions of Kelly Miller and Christi Thomas, it looks like the front office is trying to add a little more playoff experience to the roster. Is it a fair thing to say that the Lynx should make the playoffs in 2009?
LP: The Lynx made a huge improvement last season and hopefully we can continue to build on that this season. Making the playoffs will be a goal of ours. With Seimone and Candice leading the team, there's no reason why we can't compete for the playoffs and a WNBA Championship.